With London Fashion Week in its final throes before the fashion crowd moves on to the spring/summer 2017 shows in Milan, here are the eight big takeaways so far from what’s been a very feminine set of collections.
London addresses dresses
Bare legs is the key message coming from London. Next summer will be all about beautiful feminine dresses but nothing sassy or thigh grazing. The new lengths are quite prim and proper and ladylike with fluttering layers of chiffons, ditsy prints and broderie Anglaise crowding the catwalks. That is with the exception of Julien Macdonald and Donatella Versace’s Versus (showing in London) whose default setting is high-octane risqué hemlines, and Topshop Unique whose see-now, buy-now autumn collection featured some very tight-fitting slashed to the nether regions skirts.
Fashion is in an ultra feminine phase expressed in an absolute mania for ruffles. There are piecrust frills on necklines, circling sleeves and hems, with flamenco-like ruffles around the ankles at Peter Pilotto and Bora Aksu, or a peplum around the waist of a long tube skirt as seen at Mary Katrantzou, and lots of densely packed frothy ruffled tulle princess dresses at Molly Goddard. There were even tulle ruffles circling the ankles of platform sandals at Preen, but they might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Johnny Coca at Mulberry pared back the girlishness to one sophisticated simple giant ruffle over the shoulders and around the hems of his dresses.
Asymmetry is in
We are not quite trawling the archives of 1980s Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto, but there is a definite mood for deconstruction, with unfinished garments and awkward asymmetric shapes to add interest to a collection. J.W.Anderson’s dresses and jackets are obvious examples. There were raw edges and unfinished garments at Preen; asymmetric ruffled panels layered at an off angle on the skirts at Simone Rocha and slit leather skirts creating asymmetric hemlines at Mulberry.
Riffing on the ’80s
While there are demure ’50s hemlines on the catwalks there is also a distinct whiff of ’80s filtering through with references to deconstruction, goths and punks, new wave’s tailoring, patent leather and shiny fabrics, and shots of neon colour. There is also a resurgence of taffeta, a fabric associated with horsey girls at hunt balls, now being revamped as crisp white taffeta shirts at Simone Rocha and long colour-blocked holiday dresses at Peter Pilotto.
All about the sleeves
There are some quirky things going on in the arm area. No longer does a sleeve simply cover an arm, it flounces into the limelight with a life and character of its own: ballooning voluminously at Simone Rocha, Emilia Wickstead and Ashley Williams, encircled with meandering raw-edged ruffles or giant tiered frills at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, or pulled provocatively off the shoulder.
Most intriguing were J.W.Anderson’s Tudor doublet sleeves, slashed all around to reveal the underlayers.
There is nothing better to show off a summer suntan than the cool gleam of silver. Not a show came down the runway without some element of silver, be it hot pants and a slashed leather skirt at AV Robertson at Fashion East, or the Grecian vase and frieze print in silvered lamé at Mary Katrantzou. Bora Aksu, Mulberry’s accessories, Topshop Unique all took on a silvery sheen at some point in their shows. There were enchanting magical symbols in silver print and beading at Preen. Particularly beautiful were Simone Rocha’s sheer trench coats, which had a silvery shimmer. The only designer to not read the brief was Gareth Pugh, who presented a spectacular collection of black capes and coat with gold sunburst patterns on the back and giant gold mosaic reliefs covering outfits and theatrical body pieces. All were inspired by the costumes that he designed for the Opera Garnier production of Eliogabalo that opened in Paris the night before his catwalk show.
Tie one on
In some cultures people don’t carry bags but tie them around their body. That has got designers thinking about fabric bags, knots and lengths of fabric to swathe and bind the body. The soft tied-on bags at Simone Rocha are very feminine. Jasper Conran belted purses onto his 1950s topstitched linen dresses, while Fashion East newcomer Matty Bovan tied on gewgaws and lengths of coloured fishnet. In fact there was a lot of tying on of bits of extraneous fabrics by young designers like Phoebe English and Palmer//Harding.
Soap powder whites and brights
Bright whites are a staple part of the summer wardrobe in crisp cottons, organdie, embroidered organza and broderie Anglaise. On the flip side are bright hues like the daffodil yellow, moss green, bubblegum pink and coral red and then the lovely sunset hues at Temperley London, where long kaftans and ruffled dresses envisage summer holidays yet to be enjoyed.